Washington Could Legalize 'Missing Middle' Housing Statewide

A proposed bill in the Washington state legislature that would legalize more multi-family housing in the state could add hundreds of thousands of units to the state's strained housing stock.

January 11, 2022, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Puget Sound

SEASTOCK / Shutterstock

A proposed bill in the Washington state legislature would open the door to more "missing middle housing" in the state, reports Dan Bertolet. "A new bill would not only help correct the historic injustice of zoning laws originally enacted to exclude Black families, but also would relieve the root cause of Washington’s housing crisis: a shortage of homes."

The law would lift local laws that ban multi-family buildings, legalizing denser housing based on its location, local population, and proximity to transit. Based on a California study, this could lead to the construction of more than 200,000 units in Washington. "For a second comparison, a recent University of Washington report estimated that legalizing fourplexes within a quarter-mile of transit stations would create capacity for nearly half a million more homes in the Puget Sound region, which is home to 4.3 million of the state’s 7.6 million residents."

The proposed bill would also limit parking requirements to reduce the cost of construction and encourage multi-modal transportation and transit use. Further, the bill attempts to prevent displacement by requiring citied to adhere to the anti-displacement standards enacted by the state in 2021.

According to the source article, linked below, Washington's proposed legislation differs in key ways from similar laws in California and Oregon, notably by permitting six-unit buildings near transit. While it excludes unincorporated areas and gives cities a minimum density alternative that could let some localities perpetuate exclusionary zoning, the bill has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of new homes for Washingtonians.

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